Facebook Pixel

What Do Ridges on Your Nails Tell You?

By HERWriter
Rate This
What Are Ridges on Your Nails Telling You? Nobilior/Fotolia

Ridges on your nails can be indicators of health problems. But aging is the most common reason for ridged nails, according to Dr. Phoebe Rich, M.D., FAAD, clinical adjunct professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Science University.

"As we age the nail matrix becomes atrophied in areas resulting in longitudinal ridging of nails. I tell people they are like wrinkles in the nails," said Rich in an interview with the Huffington Post. The ridges can be caused by the nail’s inability to retain moisture. Vertical nail ridges are usually harmless.

Rich said, "Vertical ridges can also be caused by nail injury and certain diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis."

Jessica Krant, M.D., a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center said that "a single vertical streak could be a sign of a tumor growing at the root of the nail."

If ridges in your nails have grown quickly, and have become more pronounced over a short period of time, this could be a sign of a rare condition called lichen planus (LY-kin PLAN-us). The condition is not contagious and cannot be transmitted to anyone.

Lichen planus can change the look of your fingernails, as well as your toenails. It is also important to note that the disease can develop on one or a few parts of the body. It can be inside your mouth, scalp, genitalia and skin.

If you think you have lichen planus, contact your health practitioner right away.

Three other conditions that may result in nail ridges are Beau’s lines, puffiness around the skin, and nail pitting.

Beau’s lines appear like dented lines across the entire nail bed. A shortage of zinc in your diet or diabetes may cause them.

Nail pitting is different than Beau’s lines. It resembles ice pick dents in the nail. Nail pitting maybe caused by psoriasis, tissue disorders or alopecia areata.

Puffiness around the nail base may be a sign of an infection or lupus.

It is important to see your health care practitioner if you see changes in your fingernails or toenails. Sometimes the change in your nails could be a reaction to medications, infection or injury.

To treat nail ridges, Kant recommends using petroleum jelly or a thick lotion to moisturize the nail throughout the day. She also suggests paying attention to the cuticle as the key to the health of your nails.

Rich does not recommend buffing out the ridges because the ridge tends to be the thinnest spot on the nail, and buffing or picking at the nail can make the nail split.

Reviewed July 12, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Melnick, Meredith. "What Are Nail Ridges: Are They A Sign Of A Health Problem?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Web. 08 July 2016.  

Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences. "What Your Nails Say About Your Health." The Huffington Post. 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 08 July 2016.  

"Lichen Planus." American Academy of Dermatology. Web. 08 July 2016.

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Nail Ridges

Get Email Updates

Related Topics

Nail Ridges Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!